Following close on the heels of its new “Planet of the Apes” ongoing series, BOOM! Studios has announced a November-launching miniseries set in the world of the classic films.
The four-issue “Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes” is co-written by the husband-and-wife duo of Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Sara Bechko, with art by Hardman, who is perhaps best known for illustrating “Hulk” and “Agents of Atlas,” as well as storyboarding films like “Inception.” Hardman and Bechko have previously collaborated on “Heathentown” and the Zuda series “The Crooked Man.”
Comic Book Resources caught up with the creative couple for a discussion about the tumultuous ape society in “Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes.”
CBR News: Gabriel and Corinna, before we get into your new miniseries, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the “Planet of the Apes” ongoing that BOOM! launched a few months back. What have you enjoyed about that series? Has it influenced the story you’re looking to tell in “Betrayal?”
Gabriel Hardman: When I first heard BOOM! was publishing a “Planet of the Apes” comic I was intrigued. When I read the book, I was very impressed. The ongoing is very ambitious and Daryl Gregory had no qualms about deeply exploring a period of time in Apes lore that had never been touched before. The level of seriousness and respect for the property made me want to get in on the action. “Betrayal” is set in the period just before the classic “Apes” films, so there isn’t much crossover — but I think we share a sense of epic storytelling.
Corinna Sara Bechko I love the commitment to quality BOOM! is investing in the series. It’s a bold move on Daryl Gregory’s part to make a charismatic pregnant human one of his main characters. He and Carlos Magnos are really going for it, telling a story with real stakes and pathos. It hasn’t been influential for us in terms of content, but when we saw what they were doing, it made us even more excited to be working with BOOM! on this project.
I’d also be interested to find out about your backgrounds with “Planet of the Apes” as fans. What do you remember about seeing the movie for the first time?
Hardman: I’m 37, so like most “Apes” fans my age, I first saw the movies on television. I’ve always loved those films, and every time I go back to them, whether it’s on VHS, DVD or Blu-ray, I appreciate them in a new way. Yes, there are dated and even goofy things about the series, but I take movies on their own terms. Even the least of the “Apes” films has something to say, and I can’t help but love that. I’ve been dying to write and draw an “Apes” comic since I was a kid.
Bechko: My background is in the sciences, zoology specifically, and I spent five years working at the L.A. Zoo with chimpanzees and orangutans. You can bet that I’ve attended a “Planet of the Apes” marathon party or two! The thing that first drew me into the films was Zira, the female chimpanzee scientist who befriends the human, Taylor. She’s arguably the most badass character in the film. She knows exactly what she’s up against, yet won’t back down. She’s more of a rebel than Taylor even, because she’s fighting for a reason. I love Dr. Zaius, too. His character could be so shallow, but in the end he turns out to have complex reasons for everything he does. I think that’s what shocked me the first time I saw the film. I expected a real cheese-fest, but there was an epic story hidden under Charleton Heston’s flashiness.
How did you come to be working on this series for BOOM!?
Hardman: I’ve worked as a storyboard artist for the last 15 years on a lot of big features like “X-Men 2” and “Inception,” but I always wanted to have a career in comics. One of the first jobs I did was an 8-page “Zombie Tales” story for BOOM!. After that, I got the opportunity to work at Marvel on “Agents of Atlas” and my recent run on “Hulk,” but we always stayed in touch with the BOOM! guys, often hanging out with them at cons. After we read the “PotA” ongoing and saw how committed they were to the property, we started bugging Matt Gagnon to let us pitch them a story. We did, they went for it and here we are.
Bechko: As Gabriel said, this is a project we both really wanted to do. We live in L.A., so we keep running into the BOOM! folks at cons and book festivals. I couldn’t be happier that they liked our pitch.
As you’ve mentioned, your miniseries is set just before the first film. What made you want to tackle this era?
Hardman: When we first pitched the story, we assumed it would need to be set at the same time as the ongoing. The one big note that came back on our pitch was to set it in the classic movie era and include characters like Dr. Zaius. We didn’t need a lot of convincing to make the change. Honestly, we were thrilled. It made perfect sense for our story and I couldn’t be any more excited to work with the iconic elements of the films.
Bechko: Truly, it was serendipity.
What storytelling opportunities does this particular moment in time allow?
Bechko: As I said before, I love the character of Dr. Zaius. The first film makes it clear that ape society was in a state of flux even before Taylor’s crew landed. We now have the opportunity to explore that a little bit, and to see Dr. Zaius as a younger ape in a changing world.
Hardman: We also have the chance to expand the world of the original movies, introducing new locations and characters. That said, we are hyper-aware of keeping these new elements true to the feel of “PotA.” I’ve always been disappointed by licensed books that aren’t able to capture the tone of the originals. We’re doing everything in our power to make sure that doesn’t happen here.
What can you tell us about the story of “Betrayal?”
Hardman: At heart, “Betrayal” is a political thriller with a heavy dose of action and adventure. In our story, a former Gorilla General, a war hero, is accused of a crime from his days in the military. He finds himself on the run, imprisoned and fighting for his life. When he uncovers a plot to bring down the government, his only ally may be the newest council member: Dr. Zaius.
Bechko: I think it’s safe to say that you’ll see some facets of ape society you’ve never seen before. Sure, the law says that Ape Does Not Kill Ape. But what happens when one does? The death penalty is certainly out of the question. And exactly how do humans fit into Ape City? We see them as complete outcasts in the first film, but their relationship to the apes is obviously more complicated than that.
Who is this Gorilla General, and what is he up against?
Bechko: We’re introducing a new character, General Aleron, a gorilla war hero who now lives as a civilian. Dr. Zaius is in the mix too, as a freshly minted council member who’s still trying to define his moral compass.
Hardman: We also have a “domesticated” human and a sympathetic chimpanzee scientist. They all get sucked into a conspiracy that could transform Ape City.
You’ve have previously collaborated together on “The Crooked Man” and “Heathentown.” What makes you decide to do a project together? How does your relationship as a married couple affect your working dynamic?
Hardman: We’ve actually been writing a couple of other creator-owned projects together that just haven’t seen the light of day yet because my Marvel schedule and film projects didn’t give me the time to finish drawing them. At least one of those projects should be out in the next year. But our most recent collaboration is called “The Liar”, an 8-page story that’s one half of “Double Feature Action” #2, which you can get on the Double Feature app or at doublefeaturecomics.com.
Being married means we know each other’s sensibilities very well. We also have different strengths when it comes to storytelling, which is handy when we’re co-writing.
Bechko: It’s true that we compliment each other very well when co-writing. We only do projects together that we both care deeply about. We like epic stories that contain a bit of existential dread hidden under a ton of action. There have to be real characters involved, too. As to the working dynamic, I think it’s very useful to be able to throw ideas around any time of the day or night. The drawback, of course, is that it’s hard to leave the work behind. It’s quite a different experience from when I’m working on a project by myself, like the story I did for Marvel’s “Fear Itself: The Home Front,” for example. Overall, I’d say there are a lot more pluses than minuses, especially if your co-creator is as talented as Gabriel.